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Thursday, 7 November, 2002, 11:31 GMT
UN nears deal on Iraq
US Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte talks to reporters
The US ambassador to the UN (l) expects a vote soon
France and Russia are believed to have dropped their threat of a veto against a new United Nations resolution on hunting down Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

The two countries say they are still concerned about what they say are ambiguities in the latest draft presented to the Security Council by the United States.
Searching Iraq
Deadlines for Iraq and the weapons inspectors under the resolution:
7 days: Iraq must confirm whether it will "comply fully" with the resolution
30 days: Iraq must reveal all programmes, plants and materials which could be used for weapons production
45 days: Inspectors must be allowed to resume their checks
105 days: Inspectors have 60 more days to report back to the Security Council but may report violations earlier

But despite their unease, the BBC has learned from diplomatic sources that chief weapons inspector Hans Blix is expected to travel to Iraq in less than two weeks and is planning to start his first inspection almost as soon as he gets there.

That might mean UN inspectors demanding immediate access to one of Iraq's suspected weapons sites as a test of good faith if a resolution is passed.

Security Council discussions will resume on Thursday about the resolution, now in its third draft.

A vote could come on Friday. The resolution needs nine countries in favour - and no veto from a permanent member - to pass.

Three permanent members - France, Russia and China - had opposed the US draft but diplomats have indicated that all sides have come much closer together.

The French and Russian presidents spoke on Wednesday and agree that "ambiguities" in the draft must be resolved.

UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix
The return of Hans Blix could allow inspections within days of a resolution
The two leaders are opposed to anything in the eventual resolution which might be understood as justifying the automatic use of force against Iraq if it failed to meet its obligations.

The latest draft offers Iraq a "final opportunity" to comply with UN demands but does not accede to a French concern that a second, separate UN resolution should be necessary before force could be used.

Instead, reports from the inspectors that they are not being allowed to do their work would trigger a recall of the Security Council.

Issues addressed

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said on Thursday that the text of the resolution was "very close to the right balance".

"We have a resolution that very clearly states that if there is a difficulty, that if there is a blatant violation by Iraq of the resolution, well, things go back to the United Nations Security Council," he said during a radio interview.

China's Foreign Ministry also appeared to be conciliatory.

Its spokesman Kong Quan said: "On the whole, we believe the new US proposals have taken into account and considered the worries and concerns of some of us."

But earlier Russia's UN Ambassador, Sergei Lavrov, warned: "We are not there yet."

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04 Nov 02 | Middle East
01 Nov 02 | Americas
03 Nov 02 | In Depth
07 Nov 02 | Media reports
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